Castletown Road, Port Erin, Isle of Man
The original church of St Columba dates from 1923, but the present building is the result of a major reconstruction carried out in 1993-96. Whilst the building is of limited architectural and historic interest, it is an example of creative adaptation which has helped to strengthen the local Catholic community.
The growth of Port Erin and Port St Mary as seaside resorts at the end of the 19th century led to a demand for a Mass centre in the area during the holiday season. In 1903 the former marine biology station and aquarium belonging to the University of Liverpool became vacant, and was adapted by the priest from St Mary’s, Castletown. Built on the sands, however, it could not be used in stormy weather, and as the number of residents as well as tourists grew, it became necessary to find a permanent and convenient location. In 1923 the present site on the western edge of Port Erin was acquired for £265. The architect E. Bower Norris produced an impressive design for a stone church with a tower modelled on that of Giles Gilbert Scott’s church in Ramsey, but this was not built, and after a number of abortive schemes, the commission was entrusted to the local builder McArd, who approached the Douglas architect Jos E Teare for a design. Built as a chapel of ease, it was a simple low rectangular building of stone with a slate roof, which served the local Catholic community until 1987. In this year plans for an ambitious expansion were put in hand through a joint venture between the parish and the Liverpool archdiocese, with funds from local benefactor Albert Gubay. The architect was Martin Henihan of Henry J Lyon and Partners, and the scheme provided a larger worship space together with a church hall and ancillary facilities. The works were completed in 1996.
The church of 1923 is still discernable, although it has now been exceeded in size by the 1990s extensions. It originally formed a simple rectangular block running perpendicular with Castletown Road, with the sanctuary at the far end. The enlargement involved changing the axis, so that the sanctuary is now placed at the central point of the (ecclesiastical) former north wall and the south wall in broken through to form a extended nave. The east and west ends of the original church have therefore become transepts. Added to the new nave extension is the parish hall.
As a result the interior has been radically altered, but the incorporation of a font and stained glass windows from the demolished United Reformed Church at Finch Hill, Douglas, has added character to an otherwise plain interior.
Architect: P. Pozzoni
Original Date: 1923
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed